Individual differences in responses of Norway rats to social induction of food preferences
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Each of 36 observer rats was: (1) exposed to a demonstrator rat that had eaten an unpalatable, cayenne-pepper-flavored diet (Diet Cay), then tested to determine its willingness to eat Diet Cay and (2) exposed to a demonstrator rat that had eaten a palatable diet (Diet NPT) to which the observer had previously learned an aversion, then tested to determine its willingness to eat Diet NPT. In both instances, some observers ate substantial amounts of the diet that their respective demonstrators had eaten, while other observers did not. No consistency was found across the two situations in the relative susceptibility of individual observer rats to social influences on their food choices. In a second experiment, observer rats interacted, at 3 day intervals, with demonstrator rats that had each eaten different diets. After each interaction, all observers were given a choice test to determine their preferences for the diet that their demonstrators had eaten. Again, there was no consistency in the relative strength of individual observer rats' socially induced preferences for diets fed to demonstrators. Stable individual differences in magnitude of susceptibility to social influence on food preference did not account for a detectable proportion of observed variance in diet selection.
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